{grate 3} Visualizing Goldfrapp’s musical history as a dreamlike
    journey, we start with a porcelain doll atop a unicorn, prancing ’round lush
    mountain forests. Past the Brothers Grimm scenery, our pixie finds a dance
    floor illuminated by disco ball spasms; suddenly, lighting shocks the crooning
    synth-pop princess, pumping her ’70s vocals with brassy sex purrs.

    But here’s where our voyage takes an unexpected twist —
    without warning, our pixie stops mid-romp, smears the mascara off her wide
    eyes, and abandons feral dancing to go skinny dipping in more sedated waters.

    Admittedly, the change is off-putting. Goldfrapp’s
    commercially and critically successful release in 2006, Supernature, managed to
    fuse the pretty flourishes of their first effort, Felt
    , and the theatrical glam
    of 2003’s Black Cherry. It seemed they had finally discovered the magical
    formula that crafs electro-perfection.

    So why ditch it for a stark, folksy deviation? While we may
    never fully anticipate this shape-shifting Brit sensation, their newest album
    works — although it’s hard to confess that Seventh Tree’s acoustic, sensual
    landscapes are as profoundly enjoyable as the volatile club beats we’ve come to

    Propelling Seventh Tree’s ballads to ethereal heights is
    Allison Goldfrapp, the siren whose delicate vocals tease the opening track,
    “Clowns,” lingering on gossamer symphonic surges. Will Gregory (the duo’s
    keyboardist and synthesizer) colors her words with piano burbles and faint
    electro static. Where “Clowns” meanders and floats away, the bouncy “Happiness”
    is easier to follow — though no less druggy and distant-sounding, with its
    breathy “love, love, love” and theremin-meets-tambourine chorus.

    Seven songs into the album, we discover the hippy delight of
    the first single, “A&E,” which recalls little girls wearing daisy-chain
    crowns and running through cornfields. It’s understated, but decidedly charming
    enough to appeal to a radio audience.

    So is “Caravan Girl,” which fights the diluted drowsiness of
    the album with catchy refrains and sing-song, Eisley-like harmonies.

    It would be dishonest to say that the thrill of blasting
    wildly sultry beats like “Ooh La La” and “Lovely to See You” is passe, but
    maybe Goldfrapp has decided that the time has come to leave behind the disco
    ball and deliver a more subdued, grown-up sound. We just hope that a fifth
    album leaves a tad more wiggle room for go-go dancing.

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